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on Dec 11, 2009 in Friday Thoughts

Top Ten Questions – Bosque Base Camp

Base Camp’s Top Ten Questions:

Base Camp is a one of a kind experience, balancing the art of wildlife photography with the craft of the business of wildlife photography. One of the main requirements of the students is to ask questions. I decided to post the top ten questions asked of me (rated by me), thinking you might ask them too if you could. Here are my answers. Please keep in mind that these are just my answers and may or may not apply to you or your photography.

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#10               Is it still possible to make a decent living as a wildlife photographer?

I firmly believe that it is! The variable to this is you and not the market place. Having weathered a number of “rocky economics times” in our thirty years, we know that the individual and their images are the biggest factors to success. Don’t take this as if it’s easy, or even 40 hours a week or that there aren’t mountains and valleys along the way. But if you are in it for the long run, YOU can do it!

#9                  What’s this business about “good” bokeh versus “bad” bokeh? What’s bokeh anyway?

I had no bloody clue what bokeh was until this moment! Wikipedia says: “In photography, bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points” which a participant had to explain to me so I could answer the question. Being a photographer who shoots the 200f2, 50f1.4 and 28f1.4 (just to name a few) wide open and with the subject some distance from the background I can say that I love bokeh. So, I learned something new this day, and I love it!

#8                  Is there room for more photographers?

Oh man, are there! There’s even more room for photographers with the highest craftsmenship and professional standards. You’ve probably heard or read that it’s too competitive or there’s no money or many other reasons why there is no room for more photographers. I have such faith in my feeling and that these myths are just that, myths, that Sharon and I are not discouraging our son Jake to follow his heart but rather to encourage him. He knows of the pitfalls and heart aches, but also knows the rewards that hard work brings. The answer is totally up to the photographer to make this happen. Besides, this is what I was told 30 years ago. Some myths die a long and lingering death!

#7                  How do you balance art vs. photography vs. money vs. passion & biology?

Wow, this is a great question and a damn hard one to answer. The answer I think changes with time and age and priorities in life. At this stage in my life and career, I can focus on just the passion, knowing the rest falls into place without too much work. In the beginning, the photo & biology had to be stressed to make the money. But there is no doubt that it is a balancing act, a bloody big one. I was very fortunate that I had a partner in this balancing act. I have no doubt that Sharon made it all possible and kept it in balance with the one other variable not put into this equation, family.

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#6                  What’s your favorite animal to photograph?

Isn’t that obvious? Moose of course. It actually shares the #1 spot with the San Joaquin Kit Fox. This is a really common question which I think is very interesting. Nobody asks  what’s my number 2 favorite is though. Curious? Number 2 is all the rest of the critters I’ve been fortunate to photograph in my 30 years.

#5                  What is the biggest growth today in commercial wildlife photography?

If I knew the answer for certain, I wouldn’t have to write this blog J

In all seriousness I think it’s in the field of showing humans interfacing with nature. And in this venue it is possible we’ll start seeing video clips replacing stills with the web being the biggest vehicle replacing the printed page. I don’t think we’ll see this change really, really soon but the winds are blowing.

#4                   Is it better to have high ISO noise or live with a slower shutter speed and maybe compromise sharpness?

I would submit that there’s a third option and one I select most of the time, not shooting at all! A noisy sharp image is of no interest to me, or my clients. And a blurry image that can be done in an “artistic” style always sells but it’s not an easy sale.

#3                  What makes a good wildlife Photograph?

Now wouldn’t we all like the recipe to answer this question! I don’t think there is any one thing or attribute or subject or lens or f/stop that constitutes the answer but rather, a huge combination of these and many others. What do I look for in the pursuit of this answer in my own photography? Light, subject, color and a story would be the four at the top of the list. How often do I find these? Definitely not often enough, which is partly why I go out with the camera every moment I can. In trying to answer this question, another question instantly popped into my mind. Will I ever have the answer to this question for my own photography?

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#2                  How much depth of field do you prefer for a given situation?

What a surprise that the #2 email question I receive should appear here as #2. The answer to this question is lengthy requiring stories and visuals, a couple funny comments and jokes. But to answer it as succinctly as I can in this limited forum, it all depends.

#1                  How can “I” use my camera to help endangered species?

This question is music to my ears and a step in my heartbeat! Each and every photographer can get involved with their wild heritage and make a difference with their camera. The easiest and fastest way is to make the image of an endangered that grabs the public’s heartstrings and then get that image and the story behind it out to the public. We wildlife, nature and landscape photographers are a very fortunate group. We not only are so fortunate to witness our wildlife heritage firsthand, but we’ve earned the ability to bring that experience back to others in our photographs. It’s just one more step to finish this blessing by passing it on to others. I know of no greater reward for a photographer then to share their art and passion and affect the life of another human. And in the process, preserve the natural world we were so fortunate to inherent from before us who preserved it for us to enjoy!